MAP InsightsColumn in BUSINESSWORLD
CULTURAL AGILITY: THE FUTURE OF LEADERSHIPwritten by Mr. Ramon "Mon" B. Segismundo - March 1, 2022
One of the key thrusts of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) for 2022 is Human Development and Well Being. The levers of Human Development and Well Being broadly encompass an ecosystem consisting of the workforce, the citizenry, the education sector and tri-sectoral leadership that includes private, public and civil society. Tri-sectoral leadership is a key enabler of the rest of the players in the ecosystem and MAP wants to play a key role in expanding the discourse on the leadership of the future: what is required of leaders to maximize their effectiveness and development.
Let me posit then that the successful leaders are not insular nor parochial; they are global and cross cultural. They have the openness, risk taking and experimentation mindset and an ability to identify, distill, source and apply possible solutions from wherever and whoever they are in the world. The foundation of this global and cross-cultural management is a somewhat esoteric term called Cultural Agility.
WHY CULTURAL AGILITY?
No doubt COVID-19 has become a wake-up call for societies, organizations and individuals around the world. Consider the other equally serious global challenges we face, such as climate change mitigation, social inequality, the digital divide, mobility and migration and further virus mutations and other pandemics. Leaders would now have to contend with higher levels of expectations as they seek to hurdle these multi-dimensional challenges. Even before the onset of the pandemic in the Philippines, we were struggling with the challenges of eroding national competitiveness, poor governance, endemic corruption and debilitating poverty.
That is why the theme of “Push for Change: Towards a Better Future for All” adopted by the MAP is fitting for this historic moment. We have to raise the goalposts for leadership in the next Philippines. An important component of this New Leadership is a global and cross-cultural mindset that drives a higher level of performance and enhanced competitiveness. This is built upon a foundation of a sense of nationalism and love of country.
As MAP President Alfredo Pascual points out: “As the Philippines opens up its economy and as we exert efforts to attract more foreign direct investment (FDI), Filipino leaders need to build a strong sense of cultural awareness, develop cultural competencies and acquire cross cultural experiences.” An understanding and appreciation of the cultures in which we operate; the differences between national cultures versus corporate cultures; and the key success factors for thriving in the global environment is a critical “must do” in this brave new world.
It used to be that you have to live and work abroad to acquire global and cross-cultural experiences. Nowadays, the reality is that you could stay in the Philippines and develop the same competencies. The chances of Filipino executives and leaders acquiring the global and cross-cultural skills without being expatriated abroad have increased with the recent developments that are described below.
First, the continued rapid growth of the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry has made the Philippines a top-tier destination for IT-Business Process Management (BPM) services and a leader in the global IT BPM industry, ranking first in voice-related services and accounting for 13 percent of global market share (Outsourcing Journal’s online edition, October 2021).
Second, the passage of the reconciled bill amending the Public Service Act (PSA) is expected to drive an FDI surge as full foreign ownership is allowed in more sectors.
Third, the Philippines enjoys natural advantages such, as its strategic location and relative proximity to Silicon Valley (compared to other IT hubs, such as Singapore or Bangalore), as well as abundant land and service-oriented human resources.
Fourth, the pandemic has opened up opportunities to work across regions and national boundaries from the comfort of office hubs or homes through the use of technology. Everything can be done from the Philippines, without the need to travel abroad to acquire global or cross-country experiences. Resource persons from other countries may also be tapped to convey, and share their knowledge and expertise virtually.
HOW TO BUILD CULTURAL AGILITY
In a MAP webinar last January 28 on “The Future of Leadership is Cultural Agility”, two resource speakers — Dr. Paula Caligiuri, a global expert on cross cultural management, and Mr. Stephen Krempl, a noted corporate communications coach, shared their insights on building cultural agility as part of the executive leadership toolkit.
Dr. Paula highlighted that cultural agility involves effectively and comfortably working in and with people of different cultures. She cites three components that are critical to build cultural agility: cross-cultural awareness, cultural agility competencies, and cross–cultural experiences.
Cross-cultural awareness could be acquired and sharpened through training and coaching. Cultural agility competencies could be developed through assessment, identification of gaps, and establishing plans. In Paula’s work, the nine specific cultural agility competencies are: self-management, including tolerance of ambiguity, curiosity and resilience; relationship management, including humility, relationship building and perspective taking; and task management, consisting of cultural minimization, cultural adaptation and cultural integration. Cross-cultural experiences involve opportunities to build and develop competencies by implementing the plans from the assessment in the previous step.
To further deep-dive into the research and science of cultural agility, her book Build Your Cultural Agility could be sourced through Amazon.com.
On the other hand, Krempl focused on the global executive mindset that senior management requires and recognizes. This is building on the experiences of his international career in large global organizations. He advised the audience to: first, be deliberate in which arena you would like to play, whether local, global, or both (‘glocal’); second, be yourself while at the same time be at the top of your game in the critical few situations that require your expertise to be demonstrated. Examples of these situations include interactions with your direct boss, top management meetings, or presentations to the board.
He further asserts that when the pressure is on, you have to increase your visibility, raise your energy, differentiate yourself, add significant value and be proactive. This has to be built, of course, on a foundation of attitude, knowledge and competence.
In the course of my own CEO/leadership coaching, I have advised senior Filipino leaders on how to be effective and comfortable dealing with their non-Filipino bosses and colleagues. I have found Hofstede’s work on the cultural dimensions and the GLOBE (Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness) study as good starting points for the coaching conversations.
PLATINUM RULE AND SENSE OF NATION
Having defined cultural agility and being offered avenues on how to build it, I would like to recommend to Filipino leaders and executives two imperatives that will set them on a path to enhanced cultural agility: first, the platinum rule; and second, pride in being Filipino.
More than just observing the golden rule, let us treat others the way they want to be treated — that’s the platinum rule. This involves fully understanding and appreciating the cultures of the organizations or individuals that you want to engage with to secure the business outcomes you want to achieve. We have to move away from an inward mindset to one that embraces a world of multi-faceted opportunities.
Most importantly, we need to develop a sense of nationalism. Be proud of being Filipino. Yes, the Filipino can be competitive in even unfamiliar environments by dint of sheer hard work and determination, resilience and faith in God. Voting in the right kind of leaders in the coming elections could be an important first step in bringing about a new Leadership towards a new Philippines.
If you wish to learn more about cultural agility, please do not miss the John Clements – MAP – IHRX webinar on “Artfully Managing Across Cultures” on Friday, March 4, 2022 from 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM. We have two international speakers, Mr. Kyle Hegarty and Professor Philip Charles C. Zerrillo. Register via ZOOM bit.ly/artfullymanaging2022
(The Author is Co-Chair for Strategic HR Management of the MAP Human and Management Development Committee. He is a Strategic HR Advisor, CEO Coach, and a member of the Strategic Management/Global Management Faculty of De La Salle University. Feedback at <email@example.com> and <firstname.lastname@example.org>.